Hard, Strong or Tight Muscle: Is There a Difference?

You see it in the fitness industry all the time. People who are busy trying to develop larger, stronger muscle; due to the perception that (large) hard muscle (they say firm) is a sign of a not only fitness, but also, sex appeal.

“You have to look good to feel good.” Billy Crystal

But is being hard, synonymous with health? Does hardness equate to strength, or tightness? Is hardness a sign of being healthy? The culture says that we must fight the signs of aging, and hold on to our youthful looks as long as possible. But, isn’t that just another case of kicking against the pricks?

Am I opposed to taking care of oneself? No. However, Hollywood, in conjunction with the fitness industry, has also pushed this idea of clinging to youth. According to the trends, being “outdated” is almost criminal. We see plenty of evidence of celebrities undergoing numerous cosmetic changes via surgery; like someone who is up the creek without a paddle; who, having fallen out of the boat, is struggling viciously against a rising current. They just don’t seem to understand where that tide is really taking them. I can tell you; it’s a world filled with pain.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why they think that something called “plastic” surgery is going to make them look like anything other than plastic. Oh yes, plastic is smooth, but it’s also hard. Logic (I always think of Leonard Nimoy as Spock, when I use that word) would dictate that if one was looking for a youthful look, they would most certainly not move towards a procedure with “plastic” in the name. I mean, c’mon! It’s just common sense!

If you look at our youth, if you look at children; what shows their youth is the softness of their skin tone, particularly, if they are still innocent and unscathed by this world. Even if their life experiences make them somewhat jaded at an early age; their skin tone will still look soft and youthful, despite the fact that their attitudes will look hard and unattractive.

That I, I, I, I’m so hard yeah, yeah, yeah,
I’m so hard, that I, I, I,
I’m so hard, (So hard) yeah, yeah, yeah,
I’m so hard (Too hard)
So hard, so hard, (So hard) so hard, so hard (Too hard)
That I, I, I

Rihanna

Isn’t it funny how people promote and celebrate a mentality of hardness, and then turn around and attempt to fight gravity on a physical level using hardness (“plastic” surgery)? This world is full of contradictions, illogical people and stupid, thoughtless actions. They just don’t get the connections of spirit, mind and body, and how that all works.

Have you noticed that people that are “hard” are more selfish? Look how many times the word “I” was in that one little paragraph of that Rihanna song. That’s only a small glimpse of the number of times that word came up throughout the song. It seems that the harder people try to appear, or get on a physical level, is the harder they are on an emotional level. They are more self-centered, selfish, disillusioned, aloof, angry and guarded. Everything is contracting and tightening up, because they’re so guarded, and they fail to understand how devastating the effects of anger are on the body.

To understand this better, we need to look a few words. When something is hard, it is tight. It is compacted or compressed in some way. For example, the Bentonite clay I used a few days ago has both beauty and healing properties. My purpose in using it was the healing properties. I wanted to get rid of toxins present in my body. I applied this clay topically in several places where the pain had been most severe; areas I had been working on, on myself; and in which, I had released the majority of the pain. I just had a few specified spots around the joints that needed a bit more help to finalize the full release.

As I put this clay on, my skin began to tingle from the effects of the clay and the apple cider vinegar I had used to mix it. The effect was amazing, and it certainly felt like it drew out plenty of toxins, especially in my shoulders and feet. My point is, that when I applied the clay, it was in it’s more natural, softened state. As it hardened, it tightened and contracted; and furthermore, as it hardened, transference occurred, and it got more toxic, as it was drawing out the toxins from my body.

My skin tone, on the other hand, got softer, and the pain in my muscles; that last little ache that I couldn’t quite release, dissipated as the clay pulled the toxins out. Mind you, I bypassed the instructions of leaving it on for 15 minutes, and left that clay on for a few hours while I was watching the mindless box that evening, but it worked.

According to dictionary.com…

Contract means: to draw together or into smaller compass; draw the parts of together: to contract a muscle; or to become drawn together or reduced in compass; become smaller; shrink. Ex: The pupils of his eyes contracted in the light.

When people are contracting their muscles, they are, in effect, compressing them. Constriction is the result.

Constrict: to draw or press in; cause to contract or shrink; compress; to slow or stop the natural course or development of.

Constriction: the state of being constricted; tightness or inward pressure.

What people who bodybuild don’t seem to understand is the difference between use and condition. When muscle is contracted in order to bulk it up, the thought behind this is not merely cosmetic, but also one of use and utility. People who bodybuild believe that they will get stronger as their muscles get bigger. In some ways, that appears to be true, because they seem able to lift heavier weights. However, the issue of strength or stronger muscles is an illusion. Once again, it comes back to a cosmetic issue only for the sake of one’s insecurities and vanity. Here’s why.

Despite the fact that shorter, thicker muscle is indeed stronger in the sense of one’s ability to lift more; the only muscles that are typically short in the body are the muscles that are closest to the bones. That’s because those muscles are designated to pull heavier weight; the skeletal frame. That is their purpose. The further away from the bone the muscles are, is the longer they are. Why? Because their purpose is to extend; they provide what is called “range of motion.”

What would happen if the roles of these muscles were reversed, and the shorter, thicker muscle was furthest from the bones, while the longer, thinner muscles were close to the bone? We’d collapse into an unmovable heap. We’d be too weak to move because the longer, thinner muscles cannot lift heavy weight and would be unable to move our bones, and the smaller, bulkier muscle would constrict our movement because they are too condensed to be able to extend, and we’d have no “range of motion.” If you have no “range of motion,” that means you cannot move.

Condense: become smaller, clench, compress, confine, constrict, consume, decline, decrease less lessen, lose, recede, reduce, shrink, shrivel, subside, tighten, wane, waste, weaken, wither

When you consider that bodybuilders are reversing the use of the muscles furthest from the bones; is it any wonder that they move about like giant robots, being unable to achieve full extension of their muscles? These people cannot lift their arms in a 90 degree angle above their heads, next to their ears. The most they can do is about a 25-45 degree angle.

Furthermore, they live in pain. Likewise, any person who’s muscle is locked up from tension, stress, excessive contraction, or age is also compressed and constricted. And, in that condition, do you feel strength, or weakness? If your shoulders are locked up with tension, it takes extra effort just to function, does it not?

Thus, it stands to reason that attempting to take long thin muscle away from its intended purpose by shortening and bulking it up is a ridiculous notion for strengthening. That’s because the muscle is being damaged through microscopic tears; what bodybuilders call getting “ripped,” and scar tissue is filling in those gaps. Ever notice that scar tissue is not flexible? Clearly, this does not strengthen muscle, but weakens it.

The definition of healthy muscle tissue is “supple,” which means “soft.” So how then, can bodybuilders lift much heavier weights? I’m glad you asked. It’s a simple matter of physics; levers and pulleys to be exact. What do levers do? They alter the position of something. Here is the basic definition: a rigid bar that pivots about one point and that is used to move an object at a second point by a force applied at a third.

The main point you need to see is in the fact that a lever causes a pivot at one point. It is used to apply force to move an object to a second point. The pivot point is in our joints; like the elbow. The muscles act as the pulleys or levers. The shorter and thicker they are, the more force they can move when the lever-pulley action takes place. The longer they are, the less force they can move.

“There are two levers for moving men — interest and fear.” Unknown

It’s really not an issue of strength at all. If the principles of physics and more specifically, that of levers and pulleys were not applied, no one would be able to pick up anything that has any weight to it. I’m sure you didn’t miss the fact that I said earlier, that not only tension and stress caused tightness, but age as well. I’m sure you wondered what I meant by that. Let me explain.

We all have imbalances…well, the majority of us, at any rate. I’d say that 98% of the population has an imbalance. Due to the type of imbalance one has; their pain will be dictated by that first and foremost. I have a formula for it, but the point is, that time is a major factor. Unfortunately, most people are not that health conscious, nor do their habits and lifestyles reflect it. Granted, there is an ongoing, and ever ascending consciousness about health, because of numerous natural health warriors who, like me, have come into the blogosphere to educate and inform the masses about healthy choices, lifestyles and practices.

I, myself am not fully there yet in daily practice on all fronts, but my consciousness is very much opened on the subject, and I am critically aware. My struggle is to move my knowledge from my spirit and mind, and translate that into more physical action in, and for my body. One of my concerns is not moving on this awareness fast enough. I fight with my “old man,” my flesh, on the regular; and the battles are about desire levels, because that is all our flesh is about. I have to have both the desire and the energy to stick with my plans and goals, and just get the job done. It’s an issue of facing reality; facing your own truth, and accepting it; and then NOT throwing in the towel.

My spirit and mind are there in large part; but it’s the putting-everything-I-know-to-be-true into constant, diligent, daily practice; when my old man is a world cultural icon. How does age factor in? The truth is, the longer it takes for you to understand a truth, the longer it takes, and the harder it is to apply it and make a full recovery, naturally. It’s not impossible, but it does require a very determined, stubborn mindset.

Unfortunately, even more than the normal escapism we see in this world, people that have reached a certain age have a tendency to use their age as an excuse to give up. They’ve grown too comfortable with backwards thinking and it’s effects on their lifestyle; and they are unwilling to give it up; even if it means continuing to suffer with the pain it brings. Furthermore, their lack of “consciousness” early on, negates a lifestyle lived with disregard to muscular care. Over time, the contraction, compression and related constriction gets progressively worse.

This misinformed choice would result in habits that are the catalyst to contraction, compression and the constriction of their muscles. The condition this is most often labeled as, is “arthritis;” which amounts to nothing more than pain as a result of muscle restrictions at the joint. Mind you, I haven’t factored any other variables into the equation at this point; which could amplify an already preconditioned pain problem just waiting to rear it’s ugly head.

Time is the encapsulating factor that helps to determine the level of pain people experience, and how long it will take to release these deep-rooted pain problems. It is not impossible. I have done it myself. However, it certainly requires a determined spirit; a mindset that is open to change, and a willingness to step outside of your “norm” and be uncomfortable in the process.

You have to be willing to do what it takes to break down hardened muscle tissue; in order to return to a condition of ease, relaxation and overall tissue health. After all, you didn’t build your personal Rome in a day. Why would you disregard time in leading to the fall of the Roman Empire? Its a return to a gentler time, a softer state of being. It’s a return to “suppleness.” One can still have definition, but they don’t have to have hardness. At this point, does anyone really still desire it?


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